Off the Clock: Entrepreneur Makes Treasure out of Trash

Posted: February 5, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Ian Mooers with collectibles
Ian Mooers with some of his collectibles.
Photo by Nicolas Tan

By Dave Andrews

Most people have hobbies. But not all can turn their hobby into hundreds, even thousands of dollars.

That’s what Ian Mooers, coordinator of entrepreneurial and business development for the Office of Research, did after he saw the huge demand for toys and collectibles through online auctions. Since 1999, Mooers has been buying, trading and selling hundreds of figurines, toys and board games – oftentimes for a hefty profit.

“It’s surprising how much people will pay for things that I bought for sometimes as little as one dollar,” says Mooers. “And sometimes it’s something that can even be found new at a local toy store.”

Each Saturday morning Mooers heads out on a trail of thrift stores and rummage sales in search of more treasures. He covers the same terrain each week throughout Montgomery County, Md., and comes home with what will soon be other people’s prized possessions.

Mooers says it’s a great hobby to have because it doesn’t interfere with his work during the week, and he can cover a lot of ground on the weekends in just a few hours. “When you know what you’re looking for, you can move pretty quickly,” he says.

Mooers recalls a big score he came upon a few years ago after floods damaged a large amount of property through parts of Maryland.

“People were just setting their damaged belongings on the side of the road,” he says, “but a great deal of it was still in good condition. One man had set out his son’s collection of Star Wars and Marx Cowboys and Indians figurines that he considered to be garbage. He told me if I wanted it, to go ahead and take it because his son wasn’t coming back for it. So I got a friend of mine, and we came back with a truck and loaded it all up.”

Each week he lists eight to 10 more items on Ebay, while shipping off the previous week’s items to their new caretakers.

Mooers has become so successful at his hobby that he as been able to turn it into a real business. As of this last year, he’s moved on to a more formal setting, selling collectibles exclusively on behalf of two local thrift stores.

Mooers says his friends and family were amazed at how much extra cash it has generated, especially around the holidays.

“At first she didn’t understand what I was doing,” Mooers says of his wife during the earlier stages of his hobby. But he says that after thousands of dollars have come in as a result, “now she sees.”

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